Wells Fargo LI foreclosure event draws hundreds

Wells Fargo lending manager Shaut Jason assists Coram

Wells Fargo lending manager Shaut Jason assists Coram homeowner Chidley Vertus with questions about her mortgage at a foreclosure event for distressed homeowners at Nassau Coliseum. (July 17, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

A Wells Fargo foreclosure prevention event at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Tuesday drew hundreds of homeowners seeking loan modifications.

Turnout was lighter than anticipated, with about 460 people registered for the two-day event. The bank had hoped for at least 1,200 attendees; it invited 40,000 distressed homeowners who live within 100 miles.

"We wish more would come," said Marie Day, Northeast regional servicing director for Wells Fargo, which services one in six loans in the United States. "Sometimes the message they hear is there isn't any help available."

In a convention space in the Coliseum, dozens of mortgage specialists and underwriters met with homeowners in curtained-off cubicles, scanning and reviewing their documents and assessing whether they were eligible for loan modifications. Roughly one quarter of attendees can expect a decision on-site, as long as they bring all the required documents, according to the bank.

One homeowner, Chidley Vertus, walked away with a trial modification that forgives up to $315,000 from her mortgage loan, if she makes on-time payments for three years. Her loan balance had been $460,000, including arrears, according to the bank. Her Coram home's value has dropped precipitously since Vertus and her then-husband bought it in 2006, from $361,500 to $120,000, Vertus said.

The new mortgage terms were provided under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program, which provides incentives for banks to modify loans. The home's decline in value and Vertus' debt-to-income ratio were factors in the decision, according to the bank. Vertus' interest rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent, but the monthly payments fell from about $3,400 to $2,000.

"I can't wait to get home to celebrate," said Vertus, a licensed practical nurse with two children, 11 and 13. The mortgage payments became "too much" after she and her former husband split three years ago, she said.

Unlike in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, when many borrowers' troubles were due to subprime mortgages, today's distressed homeowners typically have experienced job loss, underemployment, divorce or medical problems, Day said.

The event mostly drew praise from homeowners and nonprofit housing counselors for being well-organized and helpful. "They lowered my interest rate, lowered my payment, literally on the spot," Edward Tsang of Oceanside said as he left the event.

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